Tag Archives: Happiness

Instead of Despair, I Studied the Dancers

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Me and Mehera atop Arc de Triomphe

PR3–427

In Lieu of Despair, I Studied the Dancers

Normally I am mildly traumatized
At parties I subtly panic
And yet things are moving right along
Like last night was Mardi Gras

Right?
And there was dancing and I watched the dancers
I wondered at the fact that they enjoyed that
But then they all could dance but I

Felt like the illiterate dunce
At the poetry contest but guess what?
Instead of despair over what I couldn’t do
I studied the dancers

With their hands outstretched hips snaking
I looked at their eyes
And I saw there how it’s done
(You dance with your eyes)

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
Because I care about your happiness, I (from personal experience) write about and frankly push poetry production. And visual art. But if you are good at music or dance or even conversation is an art. So it expresses the heart, it’s therapy.

But I am dance challenged. When I was a Sufi (back in yore) I was a sufficient exhibitionist ham as to want to act in the annual Sufi play. But the Sufi Gods decreed that try for one you must try for all. Try for all three (singing, dancing and acting).

So I had too to audition to sing and then to dance.
Sigh.
No, my sigh is premature. Because first was the sing thing and that DID go okay because I chose the old spiritual Steal Away because at family Thanksgivings, etc. I used to sing the straight part of it–to be intermingled with the improvised harmonies of my musical genius older brother Jim (God rest him). The result was very nice. I am sure I must have talked about Jim. In some of the biographical blog posts. If not why not soon? He is very interesting. Yes and maybe a bit like the Chinese curse. (”May you live in interesting times!”)

Anyway to get the crabgrass out of my digress let’s get to my dancing audition.

I had the good fortune to have as my audition master my friend and fellow Sufi, Gail.

Kind Gail.

Patient Gail.

(Gail who could dance circles around a dervish)

Though it was a simple (I mean pathetically basic) choreographic instruction replete with several Sufis on either side none with any dance related troubles. All easily repeating it.

But I couldn’t repeat the basic steps. Oh, the humiliation.
The pressure.

And remember all this is with witnesses.

She had me go over the routine over and over, even after all the rest had left. Some kind of Sufi test I expect.

But I was ashamed. Especially when finally I had to throw in the towel.*

My point being I am scared of dancing. Except maybe in one sense because I am a clown exhbitionist (Boy did that piss off my first wife Judy! The dignified sedate quiet type, who was mortified to have God and everybody know she was married to dicho payaso.)

And that could cancel out the fear. I remember once when my old friend Ralph and I got roped into a party where there was dancing. I remember Ralph taking the safe route of sitting it out on the sidelines but watching me with arms flailing (well more exactly feet. I tended to imitate those clog dancers where all the action was below the hips.) but when I did it I remember I had friend Ralph almost on the floor from the belly laughs.

Or the time when my daughter Mehera graduated from medical school and I had to celebrate that so I invited her to a trip to Europe! See above–that’s us atop the Arc de Triomphe, over looking the also legendary Champs-Élysées (French for Elysian Fields—see Greek Mythology).

Not as expensive as it sounds because she had friends there (from having graduated from Cal Berkeley as a French Literature major, and for that having spent a year in France, largely with her host family, who came to declare Mehera was an honorary daughter for life.

Indeed as we left everyone there also declared me in the family and so whenever I am in France I have an invite to stay with them.

Of course they had a three foot in diameter cherry tree and we were there at prime ripe cherry time! I am a cook and got popular making cherry pie after cherry pie. They had a little handy apparatus that you punched by the palm of your hand forcing the pits in one direction and the cherry sans pit in the other. (Rhymes with cheery Sanskrit! Oops Pardon my “poetry!”)

But back to the dance theme. To prove her father was her puppet Mehera had me dance to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. (The Ode to Joy)

And Mehera too of course laughed her ass off. (Which made me dance funnier because I love Mehera’s laugh!)

And when in Paris we stayed with her old college roommate, Tina,** then a professor of French Literature in a Paris University. She had married a French photographer and they lived happily in an apartment on an island in the Seine not two blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral. Not as romantic a visit as it sounds though because it was under renovation at this time and so surrounded by scaffolding. I guess they had to tend to the row of gargoyles.

I have always heard impressive things about the medieval concept of religion and it IS said everyone down to the peasants believed in imminent miracles and the constant presence of God.*** But to “adorn” a such impressive cathedral with rows of hideous-aspected gargoyles, doesn’t seem in that vein, which is indeed hard to think runs on to the heart. I think I read somewhere that the gargoyles were there to be shown who’s boss or some such.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Which reminds me. I have all ready to go a chapbook of poems dedicated to and loosely about my surprisingly spiritual cat, Dahlia. It’s titled “The Cat Who Threw in the Tao.”

So many projects

So little time

Sigh

** This friend of Mehera’s was named Tina Chen, and yes, of Chinese extraction. But she had been fighting bouts of cancer since she was seven years old. Alas, she died a few years after our visit. She came to California for her final treatment which was unsuccessful. Mehera flew north to be with her as she died. It’s a perennial matter for contemplation why the sweetest among us so often die young. A person (like me) who had independent and impressive proof of the existence of God, might wonder how that fits in. (If this statement makes you wonder see the “about” button above, where it is all explained.)  I suspect it has something to do with reincarnation.

***An instructive example of that in those times is found in the short booklet recounting the philosophy of Brother Lawrence (a simple monk in the sixteenth century or such). The title gives a hint: The Practice of the Presence of God, with Whom Brother Lawrence constantly talked, asking for help in what he was doing for the monastery etc. chatting merrily saying (to God) stuff like, “You see what happens when I do things unattended!”

A Secret Plan to Ask for a Bicycle for Christmas

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Lud Dimpfl with Parsi mystic, Meher Baba

New Start—243

Turn Around: Face the Sun

(To Lud)

It’s all done with desire wires
(Yes we’re marionettes)

But we can sing an along song
Just like an astronaut growing
Old and bold in his orbit

–Who can with his little jets
Turn around: face the sun–

(Like a cat for fun pounces)
Announces
“I’m flying this thing!”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
I am in the usual quandary of if I should continue with the autobiographical stories, or go back to the Sufi musing genre (in re my views on the sources of happiness). I used to have a preponderance of those posts which you can verify by browsing through the last five years of archives, which are shown just under the posts’ titles on the right (At least on the main page you get with dialing up rumi-nations.com).

Sir Naïve Moi Person originally planned to have regular conversations with readers via comments, or even devote an occasional post to use to respond to any issues arising in comments. But alas I am comment poor, and so am flying blind, needing to decide on my own how to get my blog themes ducks in a row.

But back to flying blind, you could say that about the poem above, inspired by my old beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud Dimpfl *(rhymes with blood). He talked about astronauts in orbit and so of course the route was fixed, although (with little side jets) they could turn this way or that, giving the illusion he was (as Lud said he said) “flying this thing!”

Whereas scientist (chemist) Lud informed us (his Sufi class of 30 mureeds–AKA Sufi students) it was just a matter of wheeling about on the axis of the astronaut’s center of gravity, which was fixed out there in the proverbial “bowl of night.”**

Which brings up the interesting Sufi question of how much we are really in charge of our lives. I like the quote from John Lennon: “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” And I have been given examples of this in my own life, things out of my control like breaking my leg (okay I DID foolishly run in front of the car) or a wife leaving. Yes, at least in these cases at the time seemingly disastrous things, but as to my leg, I recently mentioned*** how the slightly shortened left leg kept me out of the Vietnam war? How the loss of the wife was in a few short years looked back on with relief, etc.

Though we do get feedback and that makes the art of living truly an art. Certainly if you think of improvisational acting as an art, (and I most certainly do). And all these things guarantee surprises. And we do love those. It’s for instance the popular kiss of death for a novel to have no surprises, and same goes for a movie.

And back to my just now complaint (was it a complaint? I am not supposed to do that) about no comments, hence no guidance from readers. I mention this because I do have some feedback lately and of another sort. Para precisar (my favorite Spanish phrase, meaning to make precisely clear) I refer to a recent seeming influx of new followers of this blog, and timed to my recent heavy emphasis on biographical stories. (Maybe people like more real life drama and less Sufi philosophizing? Go figure)

And here I am (in the teeth of evidence of its popularity) eschewing biography.

So, I will get us back on track with that, before I sign off.

Let’s see, we (me and my three brothers) had just been dumped again by dear old Mom.

So where next? Maybe I will just focus on Uncle Frank. That’s a bite-size chunk not readily mixed with other family stories, so let’s get it out of the way.

Uncle Frank was a rich banker. He married my great grand aunt (sister to the great grandmother I don’t write about much because it would all be negative and a violation of the mantra (see above).
To reprise:
“My thoughtful self, reproach no one, bear malice toward no one, hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite and kind to all.”

And the first thing was “Reproach no one.”

Oops.

Anyway this aunt Bessie was a sweet shy lady I never got to know very well. But I was young. I remember at some early age visiting her and Uncle Frank, (A white-haired Scotsman, proud of his Erskine plaid) getting scared to the nth degree by a stuffed bobcat that they had which was baring its fangs.

Hard by the heater!

Even in the orphanage I saw Uncle Frank at least for every Thanksgiving. He being the rich guy and his wife childless, sort of adopted us as their family and so every year Thanksgiving Dinner was on him. Always at the old Colonial House restaurant in Oxnard, California, featuring (just across the street from the entrance) a dressed-like-a-chef black man who was waving to the passersby to come on in and enjoy southern cooking.

So I knew he was rich.

So I asked what his address was, saying I wanted to write him a letter.

How nice they may have thought, “he wants to say thanks for Thanksgiving dinner!” But I had a secret plan to ask him for a bicycle for Christmas.

You must know that Uncle Frank had to know I was relegated to an orphanage, poor kid, and all I wanted was a bicycle for Christmas. And living in a country way with half a mile between houses, etc. But he got me an adult size one with built up wooden pedals, assuring I would never have to ask for another bike.

He was generous but to a degree not to surpass an embarrassing frivolity!

Later on when Aunt Bessie died, this Frank had his eye on my Grandma Dorothy. You may recall when recently (https://rumi-nations.com/2018/04/16/the-grim-tale-of-the-first-domino/) I quoted her saying, “Thank God I will never be bothered in bed by a man again!”

Well, this was when the subject came up. So she refused him and he latched then on a twenty years younger lady named Zethal, (rhymes with lethal) who conned him into a phony marriage and dared him to denounce her when she claimed a wife’s share in a divorce. He was sensitive to what he figured would be public ridicule, and so let her have her way.

There. I have used up my uncle Frank stories. At least any suitable for a positive outlook blog like this purports to be. though what I could add reflected on my brother Jim, whose insanity was being shown by a selfish solipsism. And not at all Uncle Frank.

Fairly soon (August?) I will be traveling to California for a month or six weeks. Not sure if I may have to take a month off from blog writing. As we say here, “A ver!” (loosely translated, “to be seen.”)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Lud, bye the bye was widely rumored to be the reincarnation of Hegel, the famous (and my favorite) philosopher aka the dialectic guy).

**A reference to Edmund Fitzgeralds’s ( (1809 – 1883) translation of (Sufi poet) Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, which opens with:

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultán’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

Most famously quoted from The Rubáiyát is “a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.”

Which brings me to Sufi history. The big heyday of Sufi poetry was between 1000ish and 1200ish years A. D. Which was several hundredish years after the death of Mohammad. And with no Mohammad figure around except of course certain Sufi cognoscenti (Poets and like that) who were scarcely attended to by the extant religious authorities (Yes, giving organized religion a bad name) unless they dared to proclaim “heresy” in their poems. But wine women and song was okay! So it was a simple universal expedient in Sufi poetry that the apparently utterly charming love object was a woman, when it was in fact, God. And the wine? It was another metaphor for the intoxicating state to be found in a close study of God. (To be found within, not from the mouth of some priest. And you will not be surprised to hear that if this got out, this was offensive stuff to those who ruled the same kingdom formerly claimed by the Pharisees.)

But back to The Rubáiyát. My beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud, told us mureeds about this Edmund Fitzgerald guy and his translation of the The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. But Lud said, dissatisfied, Fitzgerald kept tinkering with it. Seven ensuing versions appeared, each one worse than the erst. And Lud said that what had been “a first rate mystical poem,” had tragically degenerated.

So. Caveat emptor!

******https://rumi-nations.com/2017/05/07/a-counter-offer-i-couldnt-defuse/

I Could Be Bought with Pie

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A Child’s Christmas

New PR-139

The Cure for Alone

I was a lonely child
But I loved Christmas:
It was a distraction attraction
From no friends

I loved the red candles and the songs
Connoting Jesus though as a baby
And I’d no affinity for babies then
But that didn’t matter

I had an affinity for holy
For the music that evoked that
Lit a candle to love which always
Has been the cure for alone

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
Yes this is a Sufi blog, in keeping with a Sufi website named after the most popular Sufi in the Western world, Rumi (as in rumi-nations.com).
But the blog posts, quotes, stories, and quotes, if they have one overriding common theme, is that it is in daily life (or should be) that we gradually hone ourselves to that “Razor’s Edge” Somerset Maugham referred to in his famous eponymous novel.

And that is why so much of my poetry is personal, derived from life experience. And interestingly (along these lines) my poetry these days, universally deals with what I call metaphysical issues. Chief among which is (have I mentioned this?) the search for happiness. Yes, Sufism is (as per the title of one of my blog posts) “The Science of Happiness.”

And this blog, as in my poetry, has no other touchstone but my own experience.

Pardon my roundabout way of justifying what I will now do. I will fill you gentlefolk (reader-wise) in on some biographical recollections which perforce have shaped my own personal search for happiness. Not to mention that I have lately embarked on the project of writing my memoirs. And dear readers, (aka guinea pigs) I do confess I plan to practice (here and there) on you all. And since I have often been assured that I have led an “interesting life,” I trust it will not bore you, and that I won’t stray much from metaphysical themes. Since this is a metaphysical (read Sufi) blog and website.
And so, like Charles Dickens did, I will begin with my childhood.

As for the tale of my childhood, I wish I could make it more of a swashbuckling narrative like the chapter in Huckleberry Finn, “We Ambuscade the A-rabs.” But that would be too protagonist for a situation like mine which was more passive as in, “I didn’t know the pie was bait and had a hook in it.”

I remember I went with my mother one day to buy me a little rug for me to sleep upon at nap time in kindergarten. For some reason I was excited about that rug, a little red riding thing like Santa’s suit. And afterward my mother asked me if I would like to meet her friend, a Mrs. Murray. I was a friendly kid (my mother used to call me her little dolphin because I was so playful), and so naturally I said sure. And it even turned out there was pie involved. And at that age, I could be bought with pie.

And after my pie and milk, my mother asked if I wanted to spend the night at Mrs. Murray’s. Of course I was also an adventurous boy who liked new things, and who thought maybe in the morning there would be more pie and so I said, sure!

And it was five years before I slept again under my mother’s roof.

This Mrs. Murray was a paid foster mother. Paid by the state of California to provide my room and board. Because, behind the scenes my mother had petitioned for me to be put in state custody and as such referred to as a “ward of the court.” If I had cleverly invested a dollar for every time in those years I heard those words, I’d have a secure retirement nest egg now.

I was too young to have explained to me the necessity for this, but in retrospect it is clear that my mother was going nuts trying to keep afloat financially with meager employment, and raise four rowdy boys, all without child support.

Boys like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.

Independent boys.

Loud boys.

Rambunctious boys, whom my mother was ill equipped to train.

I used to joke when people congratulated me for some mental feat. I would reply, “My mommy didn’t raise no dummies!” And then I would add, “Of course, my mommy never raised anybody.”

You see my mother had converted to Catholicism briefly in her youth, and apparently the rumors that the church encourages anti-Malthusian measures are true, such that my mother cranked out four boys in a span of six years. And one miscarriage! And who knows? Maybe down the lonesome road I’ll have some Hell-escaping advantage for having been baptized a Catholic! But this was too much for my Quaker father, who was no doubt aghast at the necessity to support and raise four children. (It would have entailed a job!) So first he got a vasectomy, and then to make double sure, got a divorce.

And though he never paid child support, to be fair, he often visited, and played his bagpipes, and shouted, “Hoot mon!.” (He had kilts and tassels and everything. He was taught by his Scottish stepfather.)

My mother was an only child. Her father had really wanted a son (to teach football and baseball to; he had been a star athlete in three sports in high school) and his wife hated sex,* which made problematic any prospects for more children, and so Grandpa Logan (affectionately referred to as Grambogie which name he may have suggested himself for his resemblance to Humphrey Bogart) took it out on his fat and only daughter, sneering at how she “waddled.” He no doubt had felt cheated, having waited patiently for marriage with his incredibly beautiful wife** only to discover that she hated sex. I imagine it was a surprise to her as well. I do remember her oft repeated refrain, as she got drunk at night, (after my grandfather’s death) that though she loved Logan for 39 years and missed him terribly, “Thank God I’ll never be bothered in bed by a man again!”

But back to Grambogie: I’m not sure how much abuse there was and of what exact nature, but I remember one story of her being abused physically while her mother sat in the corner cowed and afraid to intervene. So I once asked Mom if Grambogie had ever hit her and she didn’t answer, just started to cry.

She had only gotten married to escape her father.

I fear this has reached installment size. Story continues next week.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS–I have a firm conviction that to understand my youth, you must know somewhat of the roots of it. It’s a “twig is bent” thing, you know.

*And thereby hangs a tale of no sexual desire caused by typical African genital mutilation, but performed by her doctor father in rural Michigan circa 1900. (He’d come across her at age three playing doctor with her six year old sister. The Calvinist thought to himself, if this is what’s going on at this tender age, by God they’ll be whores for sure, and took remedial surgical measures) I may or may not later go into this horrific tale. But it’s outside the drive chain of the story just now.

** At age seventeen I was perusing a wooden boxfull of old family photos and came across a picture of a seventeen year old girl of ravishing beauty. And that was in black and white, not showing her dynamic red hair. I had butterflies in my heart just looking at her. I asked who it was and someone said, “Oh, that’s Grandma Dorothy.” Join me in remembrance of the strange incestuous guilt twinge that inspired.